What caught your imagination when you were young?
For me it was Foxes:
Two beautiful reviews Fox Haunts came in this evening
one after the other
on little fox feet from the Okanagan.
How could I not share them with you?
Fox Haunts. Poems by Penn Kemp. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pages. $20.
Review by Bill Arnott
First time I saw a fox I was atop an open-air double decker, trundling along rugged coast, intermittently thrashed by leafy birch as though in a weaving Finnish sauna. I was compelled to shield my eyes – the same reaction as when something’s beyond comprehension, available only to the worthy. In fact it was present for everyone. Laid bare, unabashedly rich in beauty and lore. A slender, russet blonde animal, taller than I imagined. Regal. Same as when I met Penn Kemp. Somewhere a fellow trickster – Loki, Kokopelli perhaps, danced a gleeful jig, as I carried a newly signed Fox Haunts to my semi-detached lair.
Adaptation runs through this London Laureate’s new poems in darting twists, flight from imagined hunter’s horn. At times furtive, dreamily camouflaged, or bounding in plain sight, Kemp’s artistry enraptures. We join Penn in childhood, parents fused into fox memories with “A Child’s Garden Fox.”
“Sleepy, sleeping in my mother’s lap. Nestled. / When. A fox ran in front of the car. And / was transfixed by the headlights. Ran and / ran in front of the car but could not escape”
In red hued monochrome we glimpse dead fur and living banshees in “Steal, Stole, Stun.”
“The dried heads of black fox hung / from my grandmother’s stole as if / ready to strike. Dead flat button jet / eyes shut tight to their own secret”
And with fireside ease we move through seasons, geography and myth, playful “Glow” perching us parrot-like on the writer’s shoulder, experiencing evolving words while peering real-time into her thoughts.
“That narrow snout surfaces to / figure your next ploy, asking / curiously: ‘Who do you serve?’ // The essential question mocks / my reply. The whole, of course.”
Reading Kemp’s work I feel nestled in a sidecar affixed to the master’s motorbike, confident in her route, at times in conversation, storytelling, or akin to a lie-down on a therapist’s sofa. This book can leave one simultaneously inspired and intimidated, seeing genius expand exponentially with time.
Writing this I’m at Penn’s desk, at least the one she left for me to use in Vernon, BC. Beside me Fox Haunts lies curled and content, in its rightful place atop the rest. Through a broad bay window a few last leaves cling in vixen colours and from “Entertaining the Fox” the author’s words linger. “May you be translated. And remain / entirely your own.”
Review by Fern G. Z. Carr
Penn Kemp’s Fox Haunts (Aeolus House, 2018) is an intriguing exploration of all that is vulpine – a quest to define the quintessential nature of the fox. In keeping with its elusive nature, her portrayal of this creature is fluid and dynamic.
The title, Fox Haunts, is an apt play on words. This is not only a work of place but a work that is indeed haunting – whether by its mastery of surreal imagery such as the reverie of miniature firefly-like foxes or the cruel reality of rabies.
Poems are contrasting yet complementary: predation vs. elegance (“sharp white teeth” / “Vixen slips off her black gloves”) and science vs. folklore (“The earth’s magnetic field serves as a reference guide for our Fox” / “foxglove holds the power of opposites”).
After having examined the vicissitudes and psyche of the fox, Kemp ultimately concludes that a fox is but a fox. Her final poem in this collection is essentially a benediction with a proviso that the species will be fine as long it can be freed from pejorative mythologies and human interference – a caveat reflecting the sensibilities of the enchanting poems in this book.
Stanley Fefferman‘s review is up on http://poets.ca/2018/08/10/review-fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp/ and http://opusonereview.com/?p=4786.
FOX HAUNTS is available from email@example.com for $20 plus shipping, signed.
*Video of my reading by Dennis Siren.